Battlefield 4 (Metal tech demo 002)

Hands up who’s sick and tired of hearing about “console-level graphics” every time an iPad game hits the App Store?

I know I am and it’s high time developers stopped overusing the marketing buzzword in their blurbs, methinks. No tablet on the market has the oomph to take on consoles, plain and simple.

While the advent of Metal, Apple’s new low-level graphics framework in iOS 8, clearly won’t make iPad games any better than their console counterparts, it does provide more aesthetically pleasing experiences involving far more detailed objects, lush visual effects and richer environments.

Apple is highlighting Metal-powered games in a dedicated App Store section and today folks behind the Frostbite graphics engine are showing off a pair of great looking screenshots of the Battlefield 4 console game running on an iPad and powered by the Metal-drive Frostbite engine.

Previously, creating Frostbite-driven tablet games entailed a bunch of trade-offs as developers had to scale down the number of objects and their complexity in order to retain visual fidelity, or accept lower visual fidelity to cope with a larger number of objects.

Not with Metal.

By enabling full use of the hardware, Metal has “created possibilities previously out of reach and for the first time we can include both high visual fidelity and a large number of objects,” Frostbite developers explain.

And here’s proof.

Battlefield 4 (Metal tech demo 001)

That’s one heck of a fantastic graphics, I’m sure you’ll agree.

According to Apple, Metal provides the lowest-overhead access to the GPU inside the A7, A8 and A8X processor, enabling developers to maximize the graphics and compute potential of their iOS 8 app.

Compared to the industry-standard OpenGL and OpenGL ES powering the vast majority of console and mobile games, Metal enables close-to-the-metal performance. With Metal, apps can directly tap specific hardware features of Apple’s speedy mobile processors, but without the overhead of OpenGL.

iOS 8 Metal (image 001)

Note that even though the Frostbite team has successfully ported “selected parts” of such a visually demanding console game to iOS, it’s really a proof-of-concept meant to test the engine’s capabilities.

“It’s a great feeling porting a system, get it running, and discover that there’s actually performance left,” Kristoffer Benjaminsson, Product Owner Mobile with Frostbite Stockholm wrote in the post. “Even though we have much room for performance improvements on our end, we’re pleasantly surprised of the performance we’re getting from the hardware.”

I could not imagine a better Metal endorsement than that.

App Store section (Gorgeous iOS 8 games enhanced with Metal 001)

I’m salivating over the screenshots and wish they released the demo for public consumption.

Metal supports precompiled shaders and efficient multi-threading, taking “your game or graphics app to the next level of performance and capability,” as per Apple.

Frostbite engine is also behind the Battlefield 4 Commander App and a Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare tech demo which they showcased at this summer’s WWDC running on an iPad Air with 1.3 million triangles showing up on screen simultaneously.

What are your thoughts on Metal?

I’m very excited about it, especially in combination with Swift, Apple’s brand new programming language for iOS and OS X development designed around producing speedy code.

[Frostbite Blog via 9to5Mac]

  • sNick

    I have to see it with my own eyes to believe it. Amazing!

    • definitely. Theses screenshots show absolutely nothing.

  • Franklin Richards

    I think Asphalt 8 was quite impressive after the inclusion of Metal. It kind of puts the PS Vita to shame. However it’s hard to see triple A titles on the AppStore since not many people are willing to pay the premium. However I hope they can impress us enough to make us feel like the higher price will be worth it.

    • BoardDWorld

      It’s more about volume of sales. I think placing a $15 price point will set them off with similar console profits once more Metal supported devices are on the market.

  • David Gitman

    Wtf? Battlefield 4? It almost running on my PC

  • “No tablet on the market has the oomph to take on consoles, plain and simple.”

    Haha, someone’s never heard of the Nvidia Shield or the Razer Edge Pro…

    • I agree. tablets will make potato gaming absolute in future.

    • BoardDWorld

      Christian’s statement stands true. Any console game on Nvidia Shield is heavily cut down on textures & polygons which places it back about 10 years in the console genre. Just as they are currently on iPad. What we are seeing here with Metal brings it up a notch to about 4-5 years behind, depending on whether objects are dynamic.

      • James G

        The iPad Air 2 is capable of generating console level graphics of the previous generation of consoles (Xbox 360, PS3…and definitely above/beyond the Wii). Metal pushes it even further.

        The hardware on the iPad Air 2 is insane. Developers haven’t even fully tapped into it yet.

      • BoardDWorld

        Yes that’s likely but my comment was geared towards being more than fair in my comparison after MrElectrifyer put forward that Nvidia Shields had console grade graphics.

        In all honesty at this point Android/Nvidia will be frequently wiping their bums in fear of what’s coming next in iOS gaming. Metal is a serious game changer & any comment otherwise is sheer fanboyism.

  • Gate

    I’m guessing they’re running a ‘dumbed down’ version of BF4, rendered at a low resolution at 30 fps. But still, BF4 on an iDevice? That’s really impressive!
    Thanks for the post Chris!

  • Brandon Higgins

    I’d sure love to see garden warfare and battlefield on ios.

  • hkgsulphate

    im getting an iPad air 2
    just…wait for me!!!!

  • Guest

    If iphone have better graphics than android iam buying iphone

  • omrishtam

    showing screenshots doesn’t mean it has 30 or 60 fps steady.
    it might even be 2 fps, we can’t know just by screenshots

  • NP92

    Now i think: iPad air just came? And they already releasing iPad Pro early in 2015? Why not wait 2-3months?:)
    i’ll wait!

  • Jun Hyeon Mun

    You are so right about “console-quality” graphics. We still far away from true console-quality graphics. But it’s no doubt Metal will raise the bar for what we expect from “mobile” games. What’s most important is that Apple hasn’t really addressed the real problem with games for iOS. The problem has never been about the graphics. The problem has always been about the dominance of lame, cartoonish and freemium games that make it really hard for the “real” games to shine. I am getting more and more worried every time I see those lame games being featured on the App Store.

    • Rowan09

      People won’t pay more than $5 in most cases for games so it’s not Apples fault.

  • Dan

    Impressive, but imo tablets will never reach console (or even better yet, PC) graphics quality. Tablet graphics evolve, but so does PC/console. What would you rather game on, a full fledged gaming PC with controller (or keyboard/mouse) and a 50” screen or an iPad?

    ps. feel free to substitute PC with Mac

    • They can and will. The only thing is, they won’t be on the same level at the same point in time. The best example I can think of is the fact we now have the GTA series running on tablets and even phones and not too long ago they were only available on console and PC. They run great if not better.

      • Dan

        Yeah of course, that’s my point, I usually like to play top of the line right away, instead of waiting a decade for the catch up 🙂

        Also, imo tablet can’t replace a console/PC, just not the same, I don’t find myself as invested, hard to describe. Not as tangible?